Now more than ever, teachers are feeling pressure nationwide to emphasize basic literacy skills to counteract the stunting effects of growing up in what can only be described as Generation Text, which have taken a firm hold on formal academic writing skills by the time students have reached middle-school age.
For Nicole Wenczel, a Nebo School District 8th grade teacher in Spanish Fork, the pervasiveness of electronic media in the classroom has taken on a completely new dimension in recent years.
“Kids live in a technological world. They don’t feel like they have to write in complete sentences,” she said, adding that phrases such as CYA and IDK are so entwined in the fiber of the technologically inclined youth culture that students are increasingly bridging their electronic literacy with academia without the awareness of appropriate context.
In the classroom, Wenczel repeatedly sees sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and capitalization errors in routine classroom assignments that point to an over-abundance of informal shorthand writing styles often utilized in text messages, emails and instant messages. Beyond that, she estimates that approximately 70 percent of her students carry some kind of electronic device (such as a cell phone or MP3 player) on campus, regardless of the fact that doing so is prohibited.
The proliferation of electronic paraphernalia in schools has caused districts such as Nebo to implement a disciplinary system whereby the device is confiscated. For the first offense, the student is permitted to retrieve the device at the end of the school day. In the event of a second offense, the student’s parents are required to retrieve it. But if the student offends a third time, there is no such redemption and the device is lost to the student.
Even university students are not exempt from the Generation Text effects. Philosophy professor Laurence Thomas of Syracuse University finds it so disrespectful that he will immediately end class and exit the classroom if he catches even a single student text messaging during lecture.
It remains to be seen whether there is a direct link between the distinct text message language used by today’s youth and their formal academic language usage skills.
Linguist David Crystal takes the opposing view in his publication “Texting: The GR8 DB8,” which poses the idea that texting promotes literacy through innovative use of shorthand and clever recombination of symbols to represent words and phrases.